Niem Chheng and Ananth Baliga
The Phnom Penh Post, Mon, 20 March 2017
Cambodian immigration and anti-terrorism officials said yesterday they were unaware of any local investigations into the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half brother, Kim Jong-nam, after details emerged over the weekend of the alleged killers spending time in the Kingdom prior to the murder.
Singaporean TV station Channel News Asia reported yesterday that 25-year-old Siti Aisyah, who has been arrested for killing Kim, was brought to Phnom Penh by Korean national Ri Ji-u, who introduced her to another Korean, Hang Song-hac, who she claims went by “Chang” and identified himself as Chinese.
The report, citing confidential sources, says Hang handed her an ointment that would later be used on Kim at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13. The substance was later identified as VX nerve agent.
The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun also reported last week that 28-year-old Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong also visited Cambodia to allegedly carry out a few practice runs for the murder. Both women have said they believed they were participating in a harmless prank for a reality TV show.
Y Sokhy, chief of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-terrorism department, said yesterday he was not aware of any investigation into the activities of the two suspects in Cambodia. “I do not know. I just heard this from you. For me, I did not know,” he said, before hanging up.
Similarly, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s immigration department and its investigations chief, Keo Vanthan and Ouk Hai Seila, respectively, said they did not know of any such probe. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak and National Police spokesman Kirth Chan-tharith could not be reached.
An employee at Okay Boutique Hotel in Daun Penh district – where one of the suspects reportedly attempted to book a room – said he could not identify the woman but had been asked by his boss to collect passport copies and travel details of visitors for the past two months.
The Malaysian and North Korean embassies could not be reached yesterday.
Paul Chambers, a professor at the Naresuan University in Thailand, said any indication that North Korea used Cambodia as a staging ground for the killing could strain bilateral ties between the two countries, which have enjoyed friendly relations for decades.
“If it is discovered that the assassination was facilitated as a result of chummy Cambodian-North Korean relations, then such amity by Hun Sen toward Kim [Jong-un] could become a sour diplomatic issue for Cambodia.”